Tuesday, January 31, 2012

X Minus 3 Days Until Space Princess Launch

Down to the nitty gritty! Here's a quick preview of what I have in store ...

Cover illustration by Allen Anderson - too beautiful not to use!

There are three "species" in Space Princess: Human, Robot and Alien. Alien's are built from scratch by choosing from one of ten types and one of fourteen powers - so I guess technically the game has 140 alien species to choose from.

There are five classes in the game - Psychic, Scientist, Scoundrel, Space Ranger and Star Warrior. Creating a new class, if you like, should be a snap.

"Magic items" in Space Princess are called "Super Science". There is a selection of 37 described in the game, but more could be added with ease. Twelve of them are land vehicles.

The rules for space battles just cover escapes from the forces of the Dark Lord. Seven spaceships are described, from the tiny starfighters to the massive dreadnaughts.

The rules of play take all of 4 pages. Essentially, you get time, movement, task resolution and combat. The point of the game is to be rules lite, and I think I've accomplished that at least.

The game has 108 monsters in the following categories: Astonishing Aliens, Fantastic Beasts, Living Dead, Men and Spacemen, Mutant Freaks, Rampaging Robots and Weird Entities. They include rules for randomly generating alien animals. You'll find some old standbys of fantasy gaming and some new critters inspired by science-fiction films and stories.

The game looks like it's going to come in at about 48 pages, which means it should sell for $10.

Special thanks to Jason Sholtis for contributing some spectacular art to the project. Check out his art at Underworld Ink, and his The Dungeon Dozen blog as well.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Hellcrawl! - Abaddon Preview 3

One month. Thirty days. I've spent thirty days trudging through the third circle of Hell, the circle of gluttons that is, by Dante's description, a giant sewer in which the damned souls lie on their backs in the raw sewage, mouths open, catching new sewage as it falls like snow from the sky. Yuck. Glad to be done with it!

Over the weekend, I not only finished Abaddon (well, 90% finished, still need to add monster stats and edit), but converted another chapter of Rappan Athuk (this baby is going to be big - and very cool) for the Frog God, edited Space Princess (I'm starting to really dig this one - it's all falling into place nicely), did some more work on Blood & Treasure (primarily the re-laying out the monster chapter and adding bits of art) and got in a few updates to my Google + play-by-post games. One party in the Nod hex crawl has ventured outside Ophir, the other is looking for a wizard to check out their magical frog; meanwhile, in the Mystery Men! Dark Renaissance campaign, three heroes are preparing to join battle in a cellar in the hills of Mexidor while the others have discovered Nazi flying saucers hidden in a subterranean base in Greenland.

On to the preview ...

29.40 Silk Pavilions: Hundreds of tattered silk pavilions flap in the breeze here. The ground is solid here, and about six feet above the surface of the sludge, and is littered with broken arrows and bolts. Each pavilion is inhabited by a single female shade, their grey skin painted with mauve and white paint and their bodies clad in skimpy costumes composed of copper coins (100 cp each). These shades (there are 100 in all) are completely silent, and when they discover intruders they approach warily and begin dancing and cavorting about, trying to lure them into their pavilions. Those who enter the pavilions discover a warm, comfortable space, dimly lit, with velvet pillows and silver platters of dumplings, croquets and other foods. There are flagons of wine and the sound of silver chimes. Any person that disbelieves this feast will “see through it”, seeing nothing but wooden platters of rotten food, soiled pillows, etc. In fact, the food and comfort is real, but only lasts a single night. In the morning, the pavilions and their weird inhabitants have disappeared.

30.80 Cloaca: A low, flat plain of mud covered with rotting vegetation and shed scales and teeth is punctuated by a large fort of mud ramparts topped by a picket of rotting timbers. The fort is occupied by 400 stout, black ratlings with long snouts and wearing tattered loincloths.

The ratlings hate and fear everything that isn’t a black ratling wearing a tattered loincloth. They survive on the rotting vegetation and by hunting. Their village is collection of shanties constructed of driftwood and bits of stone, brick and metal. The village is dominated by a large, round tower of chipped red brick. The tower has no roof and contains a deep pit in which lived the slumbering form of Cloaca, a titan of sewage who acts as a patron of rats, ratlings and otyughs.

The ratlings are currently gathered before their “temple”, their high priest Urdish is leading in them in wild chanting while a feast of captured adventurers is being prepared over open fires. One of the adventures, a magician named Gonda has been saved, for she is sought by Cloaca. Cloaca has long dallied with both Beelzelbuth and Jubilex, playing one off the other. Gonda has caught her intention because she is currently carrying the cambion son of Jubilex in her belly, on her way to deliver him to a waiting cult.

35.26 Bone Market: A village of 100 painfully thin goblins with turned up noses and rheumy, dripping eyes run a bone market here. Their village is constructed of bits and pieces dragged out of the sludge. It rests on a muddy flat punctuated by noxious herbage. In the middle of the village there is a square in which dozens of little tents and booths have been erected selling every kind of bone imaginable – assume a gold piece cost equal to a tenth of the original owner’s XP value. In the center of the square the goblins keep a large kettle ever on the boil, making a thin, greasy soup using some of their precious bones.

Each of the goblin houses has a trapdoor in it that leads to a stark chamber with spiked walls located well beneath their village. Here, they keep instruments of torture and yet another kettle for stripping the flesh from bones. Beware an invitation to enter one of those homes and share some tea and biscuits.

37.86 Cursed Causway: When folk enter this hex, they see a brick causeway 10-ft. wide rising from the sludge and pointed in whatever direction the party is traveling. The causeway rises at a gentle slope, but after 3 miles it is about 60 feet high. At the mid-point of the hex, the causeway stops. When people turn back, they discover that what was behind them has faded away, leaving them with no more than 40 feet worth of causeway. It is at this point that the flock of twelve erinyes attack, trying to grasp people and carry them to the dungeons of Mammon in the fiendish city of Dis (see NOD 14).

41.28 Forest of Rusty Poles: This hex is devoid of large islands of debris, but it filled with hundreds of long, rusty poles. One of the poles in sight of the adventurers has a red scarf tied to it. There is another about 50 feet away, and so on, leading those who follow them on a pointless journey through the hex. There is a 1 in 6 chance per hour that the adventurers come across a strange woman balanced atop one of the poles on one knobby-kneed leg.

The woman is called Geirl, and she is a rather strange entity. She beckons people to climb her pole and speak with her in hushed tones, promising them one wish – anything, including escape from Hell – in return for killing one of their companions and delivering their heart to her.


Image from Wikipedia

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Hail the Evolutionary [New Class]

I had reason this week to think about the old science-fiction novel Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon. In this seminal work, Stapledon explores the future evolution of mankind, through 18 different forms, many of them of our own creation using genetic engineering. Now, I will admit that I haven't yet read the book (it's waiting in line behind about six others), but the idea inspired me, so with a little research on Wikipedia (which I think is usually sufficient when preparing game material - any more information than that and you become too obsessed with making things perfect instead of fudging things for the sake of playability) I present this rather odd little class ... the Evolutionary.

Evolutionaries are strange men and women who devote themselves to the writings of a mad monk who described, in startling detail, the physical path that led from the basic oozes (i.e. oozes begat plants with begat vermin which begat animals which begat magical beasts which begat monstrous humanoids with begat humanoids which begat humans) to the human form. Within their bodies, he claims, lies the potential for stepping into future stops on this mystic path, allowing these evolutionaries to actually change their form as they learn and grow. With each form, they gain new abilities.

Hit Dice: d8 (+3 hit points per level after 9th)

Attack As: Clerics

Weapons Permitted: Any

Armor Permitted: Leather armor, ring armor and shields.

All evolutionaries must be humans to start with. They tend to be arrogant and overbearing, for they believe they know a truth beyond truth. It is for this reason that their relations with clerics and druids are somewhat strained, though they acknowledge their power and accept their blessings. Evolutionaries adventure that they might grow and collect monies to support their church and its sage fathers and mothers, the “Last Men”.

Level XP HD Save Title
1 0 1d8 15 First Man
2 2,000 2d8 14 Second Man
3 4,000 3d8 13 Third Man
4 8,000 4d8 12 Fourth Man
5 16,000 5d8 11 Fifth Man
6 35,000 6d8 10 Sixth Man
7 70,000 7d8 9 Seventh Man
8 150,000 8d8 8 Eighth Man
9 300,000 9d8 7 Ninth Man
10 500,000 10d8 6 Last Man
11 700,000 9d8+6 5 Last Man
12+ 900,000  9d8+9 4 Last Man

Note - The level titles reference "man", but can just as easily be read as "First Woman", for the class is open to either gender.

At each level, an evolutionary changes his or her physical form. All evolutionaries enjoy a +2 bonus to save vs. polymorph and other effects that would forcibly transmogrify them. If an evolutionary is killed and reincarnated (per the spell), they always lose one level and return to the form of a sub-man (see below).

An evolutionary’s ability scores remain stable from form to form (though some forms increase or decrease them slightly), and their memories and personality remain fairly stable as well.

First Man (1st level): The first men and women are humans. They learn insights in defeating the ancient forms of humanity. At first level, this gives them a +1 bonus to hit and damage oozes and a +2 bonus to save against the special attacks of oozes.

Second Man (2nd level): Upon attaining the second level, the evolutionary’s form changes. They become taller, adding at least 3 feet to their forms. Their necks thicken and their heads grow over-large for their bodies (improve Wisdom by 1 to a maximum of 18), their legs become as stout as a dwarf’s and their toes merge together. The second man’s skin becomes as firm as carved granite and finely molded, their skin luminous and their eyes large and the color of jade. A second man gains the ability to use ESP three times per day and gains combat insights against plants.

Third Man (3rd level): The third man shrinks in stature, becoming slight and lithe (improve Dexterity by 1 to a maximum of 18). He has sunny brown skin covered by downy red gold hair. His eyes are golden, his face compact and with a cat-like muzzle, with full lips and distinctive large ears. The third man’s six fingers are long and supple, like antennae of living steel. The third man loses the ESP ability of the second man, but gains a thief’s ability (as a 3rd level thief) to move silently, climb and pick pockets.

Fourth Man (4th level): The fourth man makes a startling transformation into a giant, floating brain. The fourth man improves his intelligence and wisdom scores by 1 (to a maximum of 18) and gain the ability to cast spells as a 4th level magic-users. They store their spells in their minds, rather than spellbooks, and begin with as many spells as they can cast per day, determined randomly. Fourth men move by flying at the normal movement rate and can levitate in place. Since they have no bodies or hands, they cannot wear armor or use weapons or other forms of equipment. Their thick skins give them an armor bonus of +2 and they can attack by slamming into opponents, dealing 1d4 points of damage. As in previous forms, they gain combat insights against vermin.

Fifth Man (5th level): In the form of the fifth man, the evolutionary regains a humanoid form, twice the height of a human being (+1 bonus to Strength, to a maximum of 18). Armor in this form costs twice as much as normal and they are capable of using two-handed swords in one hand. They have eight fingers on their hands (the sixth finger of their third form splits in this form into two tiny fingers and a thumb), and regain the ability to pick pockets as a 5th level thief. A fifth man has no hair other than a thick skull cap of ruddy brown hair and large eyebrows to shade their eyes. The fifth men gain resistance to fire and combat insights against normal and giant-sized animals.

Sixth Man (6th level): The sixth form of an evolutionary is a bit of a throwback. They become much reduced in stature, to roughly the size of a halfling or dwarf, and their Intelligence and Strength are both reduced by 1 point (to a minimum of 3), while their Dexterity and Constitution increase by 1 point (to a maximum of 18). Sixth men are expert hunters, gaining the ability to track as a ranger of 6th level, and their combat insights extend to magical beasts.

Seventh Man (7th level): The seventh man increases in height, being about as tall as an elf, and his bones become hollow (-1 penalty to Strength and Constitution, to a minimum of 3). In this lighter form, they suffer only half damage from falls. He develops skin flaps under his arms, which give him the ability to fly at twice his normal movement rate. He also improves his Dexterity score by 1 point (to a maximum of 18). These folk must wear specially prepared armor (costs double normal) if they are to fly while armored. Their vision becomes exceedingly keen, allowing them to see in darkness as well as a dwarf and to find secret doors as well as an elf. They retain the sixth man’s ability to track as a ranger, and their combat insights extend to monstrous humanoids.

Eighth Man (8th level): The eighth form of an evolutionary is that of a substantial humanoid (+1 to Strength and Constitution, to a maximum of 18) with a long, narrow head (-1 to Wisdom and Charisma). Eighth men are rather pedestrian and conservative in their views, and have a straight-forward attitude pleasing to dwarves. Their minds are logical and their insights piercing them, giving them a +2 bonus to save vs. illusions and mind-controlling or altering effects, and the ability to find and remove traps as a thief of 8th level. Their combat insights extend to all non-human humanoids, and they gain the ability to modify a human being (per polymorph) into any other humanoid form once per day with a successful touch attack.

Ninth Man (9th level): The form of the ninth men is that of a dwarfish human, almost as broad as he is tall. They are thickly muscled (+2 bonus to Strength, to a maximum of 18) and have thick skin that provides an additional +2 armor bonus. Ninth men have a +2 bonus to save vs. hold spells and any effect that would check a person’s progress or hinder their ability to move. Their combat insights apply to all humanoids, including humans. They are immune to poison. They retain the eighth man's ability to polymorph human beings, but can now do so with their gaze rather than touch.

Last Man (10th level): The last man is the final form of the evolutionary, the end of all his struggles and tribulations. The final form is highly variable. It is always humanoid in form, but its precise form is determined by the player.

Last men exist in a group mind with all other last men, giving them an effective bonus of +2 to intelligence, wisdom and charisma, to a maximum of 18. They can communicate telepathically to a range of 1 mile, and can set up a telepathic group mind with up to six other humanoid creatures once per day, allowing them to communicate telepathically with one another at a range of up to 1 mile.

The last men’s group mind also allows them to contact other plane once per day, asking the group mind questions as though they were actually contacting a higher power.

Last men have an alien mindset that gives them a +2 bonus to save vs. mind reading and mind control. They can use ESP one per day on other humanoid creatures, and can use polymorph other once per day on any non-humanoid creature, though its new form must be in of type only one level higher or lower than its original type (i.e. a plant could be polymorphed into an ooze or a vermin form).

The Last man is immune to polymorph and shapechange.

SUB-MEN: The sub-men are brutish humanoids who stand about the size of an elf, but are much broader and bulky. They have a +1 bonus to starting Strength and Constitution (to a maximum of 18) and a -1 penalty to starting intelligence and wisdom (to a minimum of 3). Sub-men may advance as fighters.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Deviant Friday - Marcio Takara Edition

Marcio Takara has a way with tiny - I've featured his tiny superheroes before as being great for folks looking for cheap paper miniatures of superheroes for their RPGs. He's also pretty slick with larger fare, with a clean, smooth line style and great eye for color. I would love to see him go after some Golden Age redesigns. He keeps things clean and simple, but injects a lot of life into them.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Dinosaur Art Heroine!

Most small time rpg publishers like myself understand the importance of public domain art. Don't get me wrong - I love commissioning artists. Most of the money I've made on NOD and my other products has gone to commissioning art, and if I made ten times as much money, I'd commission ten times as much art. But when your margins are especially tight, you can't afford not to use the free stuff, especially when so much of the fantasy art produced pre-1923 is so dang good! Of course, your choices can be a bit limited, which is why the mother lode I recently found must be shared with the world!

Mariana Ruiz - who goes by the handle lady_of_hats on Wikimedia Commons has drawn quite a few groovy dinosaurs and released them into the public domain. God bless her! Check these beasties out ...

Pretty groovy. If you want more, just go to Wikimedia Commons and do a search by her name. There are lots of other science illustrations (mostly technical) mixed in, as well as this kick ass image of a three-headed knight (I call dibs!)

And just for shits and giggles, a size chart (hey, got me lots of page views last time!) I threw in the three-headed knight for comparison purposes, assuming he's the same size as a human being.

The size range in dinosaurs always astounds me.

On a side note - I finished writing Space Princess over the weekend ... well, mostly. There are a few sci-fi monsters I want to add, but for all intents and purposes it is now in the editing stage. I added some vehicles for the game (hover cars, battle tanks, war walkers) and an additional class - the Space Ranger (maybe I'll change it to Astro-Ranger or Cosmic Ranger to avoid any clashes with a certain space ranger that works for that very litigious mouse who resides in Anaheim).

When I publish Space Princess, I'm going to launch a new blog devoted to a community effort (well, assuming the community wants to do it) at populating a pulp sci-fi planet - Kepler-22B.

Details to come, but I'm hoping it will turn into a fun project and provide sci-fi buffs with a place to run adventures. Naturally, my first contribution will be a jungle sector teeming with dinosaurs and ruined Preserver Domes (whatever those are). Stay tuned!


Okay - you can actually check the blog out now. It's called Strange New World.

Apocalypse 1898 - Introduction

Here's a quick introduction to the Apocalypse 1898 setting ...


It has been almost a decade since the civilizations of man were laid low by the invaders, and man’s dominion over much of the Earth was brought to a close. The invaders came not like a natural disaster, blind and deaf, to the planet, but with a cold, calculating intelligence. They knew what to destroy and how to destroy it. They knew how to win, and they did win.

But victory does not mean survival. Though they cast mankind’s progress back 500 years, the invaders did not survive to enjoy their victory. Now, the remnants of human civilization struggles to reclaim its former glory. This is no easy task though. Mankind's factories were largely destroyed and their rail systems uprooted. Canals, rivers and seashores are clogged with the red weed of the invaders, making travel by boat exceedingly difficult and slow.

The 10 or 20 percent of humanity that survived the apocalypse from Mars operate with Medieval technology amid the ruins of a much more advanced civilization, one of steam, gas light and telegraph. Many people dwell in small, fortified villages, trembling in the night at the sound of the wolves at their door. A surprising number of people, however, still eke out an existence in the urban ruins.

In New York, once one of the world’s mightiest cities, the boroughs are now ruled as baronies by ruthless political machines and criminal gangs that hold power with fear and violence (well, maybe things haven't changed much after all). In the rubble clogged streets and amid the crumbling edifices of the Gilded Age, men and women struggle for daily survival while plunging into subterranean vaults in search of their own lost marvels and technological wonders left behind by the invaders. With these tools, brave men and women can forge a new civilization on the ruins of the old.

Welcome to Apocalypse 1898.


Apocalypse 1898 attempts to combine two popular adventure tropes: the Victorian era and its wondrous scientific romances and the concept of the post-apocalyptic world, where man has lost his tools and must live again as an animal. The notion of a Victorian apocalypse is not new, the genre having been invented by the Victorians themselves. Apocalypse 1898 focuses in particular on the ruins of New York that were left behind after the infamous invasion by Mars written about in H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.

Apocalypse 1898 is a role playing game, in which a band of players take on the rolls of people attempting to survive and thrive in the post-apocalyptic New York of 1898. One player is the Referee, and he or she runs the adventures and adjudicates the rules when necessary. The game is primarily played with pencils, paper and a complete set of dice, including the traditional six-sided dice most often found in games as well as dice with four, eight, ten, twelve and twenty sides. A healthy dose of imagination is also required to bring the setting and the struggles of the characters to life.

This book explains the rules of play and describes the setting of New York in more detail. It also offers advice for the Referee in terms of running the game and writing adventures for the players.

After you have read the rules, gather your players, elect your Referee, grab some paper, pencils and dice and begin your exploration of Apocalypse 1898!


Image from OBI Scrapbook Blog - by Albert Robida, illustrating a European family going downtown to dine in a series of caricatures about war in the 20th century.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Apocalypse 1898 - I'm No Fool

Wow - within a day my last post becomes one of my most popular posts ever. I'm no fool, so it's time to milk this a bit.

Apocalypse 1898 is the working title. Good / Bad / Whaddya think?

I'll use a variation on Target 10 for the basic rules.

Here is my outline so far:

Ability Scores
Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Charisma; roll 3d6 for each to determine the score (will run from 1 to 9).

Each ability score is tied to several "skills". For each ability, based on your score, you get to pick a number of these skills as "class skills" so to speak (i.e. you add your character's skill bonus and ability score to them when your testing them, as opposed to just adding your ability score.

Score / No. of Skills
1-3 / choose one skill
4-5 / choose two skills
6-9 / choose three skills

In addition, you choose one additional skill from your highest ability category as your specialty (an additional +3 to tests)


Strength: Pugilism, swordplay, resist disease, resist poison, resist pain and exhaustion, wrestling, breaking and bending, leaping, climbing, swimming

Dexterity: Archery, throwing, gunplay, legerdemain, duck and cover, lock picking, riding, creep silently, lurk in shadows

Intelligence: Scholarship, decipher codes and languages, invent device, concoct formula, appraise value, discover clue, survival, pilot ship, occult knowledge

Charisma: Size up opposition, play instrument, sing and dance, command, charm, suggest, resist domination, trickery

Roll 1d20, add bonuses - penalties - try to meet or beat a 10 (i.e. Target 10)

Difficulties impose a -3 penalty (cumulative) on a roll - determined by Ref, but I'd give some examples

Other Stats /Abilities
Hit Points: 1d6 per point of Strength (+3 for specialization with any combat-oriented skill)
Equipment: One roll on random equipment chart per point of Charisma
Armor Class: 5 + Dex + armor bonus
Languages: One per point of Intelligence (or 2 slots to become literate in a language)

You can start at one of three "levels"

Novice: Has a skill bonus of +3 and 3 luck points
Veteran: Has a skill bonus of +6 and 1 luck point
Master: Has a skill bonus of +9 and 0 luck points

As always in Target 10, luck points are used to get automatic successes on rolls, or impose automatic failures on your opponents. You can also trade them for things like extra equipment

This may change as I delve into the period literature, but for now ...

Human: Gets 1 extra luck point
Freak: Get one mutation (see below)
Invader: Str -2, Int +2; gets "resist disease" as a bonus skill

The mutations are going to be inspired more by PT Barnum's freak show than by what you find in most mutant games. Things like bestial appearance, horrific appearance, gigantism, pinhead, etc. No death rays. All of them would have a boon and a drawback attached to them.

You can work magic with this skill, but you must take it as a specialty.

There would be a list of magical operations with a Difficulty Class (DC) for each - like the psychic abilities in Space Princess. Maybe you would be required to have training in one to use it - perhaps you have as many "spells" as you have points of skill.

Character Packages
I'd probably include some sample character packages - if nothing else for use as quick NPCs. All of them would assume a "4" in three ability scores and a "6" in the fourth

Adventurer/Adventuress - explorers, doers of great deeds - Nellie Bly comes to mind

Gentleman/Lady - the gentry, educated and charming
Athlete - John L Sullivan comes to mind
Cowboy - Teddy Roosevelt, Buffalo Bill
Magician - Madame Blavatsky
Inventor - Tesla, Edison

An example might be ...

Cowboy (Veteran)
   STR 4: Pugilism (10), Wrestling (10)
   DEX 6: Duck & Cover (12), Gunplay (12), Riding* (15)
   INT 4: Discover Clue (10), Survival (10)
   CHA 4: Play Instrument (Guitar or Harmonica) (10), Resist Domination (10)

Gangster (Veteran)
   STR 4: Climbing (10), Pugilism (10)
   DEX 6: Creep Silently (12), Legerdemain (12), Lurk in Shadows* (15)
   INT 4: Appraise Value (10), Survival (10)
   CHA 4: Resist Domination (10), Trickery (10)

This would probably be restricted to a few giant versions of animals - giant rats, giant spiders. Would replace Novice/Veteran/Master with Small/Medium/Large and otherwise use the same ability scores and a bunch of skills (common sense here, not using the same rules as character creation), with some special abilities added in where necessary.

The setting is New York. The game would describe the different boroughs and neighborhoods in the post-invasion setting. The main goal would be survival - food and water, not being beaten and robbed - as in "Warriors ... Come hither and play!" type stuff. Of course, build up a reputation, a small army, some Invader weaponry and maybe you can knock down the doors of Tammany Hall and start running the joint.

To Verne or Not To Verne - That is the Question
The comments on the last post suggest people want some full scale Victorian Jules Verne sci-fi in this game. I'm not opposed to it, but it may occupy a separate chapter so people can either play a grim and gritty (though slightly tongue-in-cheek) romp through Victorian post-apocalyptic New York City, and others can include various sci-fi modules to make the game more in the steampunk vein.

Otherwise, the only "scientific romance" elements are going to be the surviving invaders and their weapons, and the supernatural abilities (which could be included as an add-on module as well, since some might prefer not to play Cabalists and Cowboys).

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Inspirational Nonsense = Victorian Post-Apocalyptic RPG

I was checking out Yesterday's Papers today and they had several scans from American comic weeklies - essentially illustrated newspapers. This particular image caught my eye:

A nice mash-up of Victoriana and Medieval armor and weapons. Perhaps we're looking at a Victorian Post-Apocalypse in New York City - Escape from New York meets Gangs of New York meets The Age of Innocence (Lord, now I sound like a Hollywood producer pitching a movie).

What would be the foundation of a Victorian Apocalypse? Perhaps an early ice age? Or better yet - an invasion from Mars (i.e. H.G. Wells' martians from War of the Worlds)! Yes - I can see it now. The Invaders come, deliver terrible destruction, and then mostly die off, leaving the world in tatters. Food supplies are choked off by the Martian weed (the same stuff they lived on on Barsoom until the coming of the Invaders to that planet and the final destruction of the native Barsoomian civilizations), and now people live like barbarians amid the shattered remnants of the Gilded Age.

Imagine - Steam-driven privateers in NY harbor, gang leaders and Tammany Hall fight over control of the buroughs and seek out the canisters of Black Smoke left by the Invaders, occultists (from demon summoning Golden Dawn-ers to golem-making esoteric rabbis to your run-of-the-mill fortune tellers) as powers behind the throne, people mutated by the Martian weaponry and the strange radiations they brought with them (since it's the 19th century, maybe we'll call them freaks instead of mutants), Tesla cobbling together wonders from scavenged Martian technology (this could be an era where the surviving Victorians go straight from steam to atomic power - locomotives to the space age in one giant leap), etc.

I could also profile such heroes of the age as cowboy Teddy Roosevelt, adventuress Nellie Bly and inventor Nicola Tesla (and Lord, what kind of secret empire would Edison control?).

I'll slate this project for a late 2013 release. Should be fun!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Hell Hexcrawl - Abaddon Preview 2: Death Temples, Diggers and Wailing Infants

20.59 Death Temple: A low, round hill rising from the muck here is covered by giant mushrooms. The mush-rooms grow around and through dozens of humanoid corpses, rotting timbers and rubble. Rising above these mushrooms there is an ancient temple of cracked and stained stone dedicated to Death itself.

The temple consists of an antechamber filled with murky water to a depth of three feet. This water is home to a sewage water weird. Beyond the fetid pool there are tarnished bronze doors decorated with hundreds of tiny skulls that appear to have been embedded in the door and then covered with a layer of bronze. Opening these doors without removing a trap causes the floor under the pool to collapse, sending the water and the characters into a deep pit that connects to the secret sanctum of Death below.

Beyond the doors lies the inner sanctum, where stands the great bronze idol of Death, covered in verdigris, eyes downcast, hands gripping a scythe. The idol is surrounded by several large hepatizon bowls holding rotting fruit and tarnished copper and silver coins (about 300 cp and 100 sp) and twenty grimy jars filled with greenish liquid (50% chance of a strong liquor, 50% chance of acid). A secret door in the inner sanctum leads to stairs that descend 50 feet into the earth, to a subterranean abbey.

The abbey is home to twelve priestesses (Clr3) and their mother superior, Mergsta (Clr10; 31 hp; potion of healing). All of them women have had the skin flayed from their backs (each carries a bloody scourge), and wears nothing but a long, black loincloth and a string of pearls wound into their hair (worth 50 gp each for the priestesses, 300 gp for Mergsta). Besides their scourge, they are armed with heavy maces. Their abbey consists of several living chambers, a pantry of unpalatable, rotting food, a large dining chamber decorated with soiled tapestries and bunches of sickly purple mushrooms growing from the walls and a secret sanctum.

The secret sanctum holds a smaller idol of Death carved from black marble and garbed in the same manner as the priestesses. The back of this idol is hollow and contains the Codex of Saint Death, which permits anti-clerics who read it daily to cast one additional evil or reversed spell of each level open to them per day, and a single large ruby worth 15,000 gp. Mother Superior Mergsta reads from the codex daily.

Those who touch the idol without first supplicating themselves to it have their backs break out in painful welts that soon burst open (per a cause serious wounds spell). Removing the ruby from the secret sanctum causes a swarm of biting flies (i.e. insect plague) to be summoned to defend the idol.

21.56 Diggers: Ten skeletal trolls scrape at the sides of a rocky hill with little progress. Inside the hill, behind a cave-in, there is an evil +3 longsword called Himon. Himon has a reddish blade and the pommel is set with a cluster of tiny rubies. The sword sheds darkness in a 10-ft. radius but allows the wielder to see through it. The sword can also animate up to 20 HD of creatures it has killed – the troll skeletons are its servants, and they are attempting to unbury it. Its former owner, the reaver Vigon, lies dead underneath all of the rocks. He entered the cave to avoid a pack of demon dogs.

22.62 Pitted Statue: The remains of a giant iron statue – humanoid, but unrecognizable – stands here, overlooking a vast miasma of waste in which float hundreds of wicker baskets containing wailing infants (glamered madragoras). A tribe of winged kobolds flit around the statue, gnawing at the metal (for metal is their only source of nutrition). The kobolds prefer precious metals, and can devour up to one pound of the stuff before they are sated. For every pound of precious metal brought into the hex, there is a 5% chance of an encounter with 3d6 of the kobolds.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday Grab Bag!!!

Just a few random notes today.

From the Weird Adventures Dept.

Got my copy of Trey Causey's Weird Adventures yesterday. It is gorgeous. If you're working on a game product, check this baby out - sets one heck of a standard.

From the Badass Air Elemental Dept.

What would Clint Eastwood look like as an air elemental? I think a little something like this ...

From the Get Into the Game Dept.

Check it out - Liz is wearing a Monster Manual dress. Can you do any less at your next session?

From the Sailor Man Dept.

My Hero!

From the American Empires Dept.

Yeah, still working on it. When you find an image like this, you cannot help but be inspired. Benjamin Franklin, American wizard.

From the Checking Her Out Dept.

Checking out women is timeless.

From the Feminine Pulchritude Dept.

And beauty is timeless as well. Thank you Charles Gibson!

See you next week with some Abaddon previews and ... heck, I have no idea what else I'll come up with.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Deviant Friday - Mancomb-Seepwood Edition

What can you say about Mancomb Seepwood? Other than - cool name, dude. Well, how about the craftsmanship? Such a nice style - great colors. He can certainly draw a pretty lady, but his talent goes beyond that, which is nice. Enjoy some a few select pieces ... and if you visit his gallery at DeviantArt, be warned - NSFW.

Yeah, cheesecake - but well crafted cheesecake.

Into the Land of Nod

And so it has begun!

Last weekend, I officially started two things - my Blood and Treasure playtest and a foray into the hex crawls I've written for the Land of Nod using Google +. The games are play-by-post - maybe someday I'll have enough time to run some ConstantCon games with Google hangouts, but for now pbp will have to do.

Eleven brave souls have stepped forward to brave Nod, and I've split them into two teams, which I've nicknamed Team Blood and Team Treasure.

Team Blood was placed at 3rd level. It currently consists of a lawful gnome cleric of Hercules, a human paladin, an elf fighter, a halfling duelist, a dwarf ranger and his guard dog and a human fighter. Their foray into Nod has begun in the wicked city of Ophir, where they've already had the opportunity to save a boy and his frog from an escaped carnivorous ape. Team Blood is now gathering at the Bloody Bones Tavern to talk things over.

Meanwhile, Team Treasure was placed at 6th level and consists of an elf duelist, elf ranger, dwarf barbarian, half-elf sorcerer and human cleric of Atlas. This group was lured to Ophir to collect a possible inheritance from an archmage they all had known in the past, but found themselves conked on the head for their trouble. Waking up, they witnessed their attackers fleeing the scene due to some confusion (apparently a carnivorous ape that was in their possession escaped into the city streets), taking with them a single belonging of one of the PC's. They're now hot on the trail of the two thieves.

If anyone else would like to adventure in the Land of Nod, look for me on Google + (John Stater) and let me know. I can't promise to get you in on the action immediately, but once there are enough adventurers lined up, I can start a new group (Team Ampersand?) and set you loose on the sandbox.


Image of a human bard by Jon Kaufman from the forthcoming Blood and Treasure RPG.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Mother of All Size Charts

Cobbled this up over the last couple of days using the silhouettes created by Telecanter.

Click to see full size and enjoy!

EDIT: Made some adjustments to the chart, and I added a storm giant and gelatinous cube. I was way off on the wyvern, the giants needed some tinkering and my treant was too big. Of course, sizes vary. I might do some more work on the sea critters as well.


On a side note - the print copy of NOD 12 is now up for sale at Lulu. Sorry it took so long - wanted to make sure it came out okay. 144 pages for $11.00. Map of Hell still didn't reproduce as well as I would like, but you can still grab a better looking version HERE.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Give the Hollywood Lawyers What They Want ...

... and stop talking about Hollywood's intellectual property.

Instead, you can give all that free publicity to me! 

Come on - NOD, Pars Fortuna, Mystery Men!, Mutant Truckers, 1800-American Empires, Blood and Treasure, Space Princess, Cave Brawl, Greatsword, Action X, Queen and Kaiser ... I have tons of content, and I won't shut down your blog if you use any of the original art from it that I've posted - so long as you credit the artist and give me a link back.

And it doesn't have to be me or my nonsense. I'm sure other small creators of games, independent movie and entertainment producers and craftspeople like the folks at Etsy would like the free publicity as well. Instead of buying yet another t-shirt with Batman on it, buy somebody's groovy creation at Cafe Press. Instead of watching the latest Hollywood big budget sci-fi or fantasy film ... well, actually, you probably just shouldn't watch that crap period.

Allow SOPA/PIPA to bite Hollywood and the whole Entertainment Industrial Complex so deservedly in the ass and stop talking about them and their content. If they want to take their ball and go home, let them. We can have plenty of fun without them!


Illustration by Jon Kaufman, from the upcoming release of Blood and Treasure

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

OSR Conservation / Best Thing I've Seen Today

If you haven't already, you might want to check out the OSR Conservation project. Basically, folks like me can upload some of the gaming stuff we've created to make sure it is preserved even if we disappear from the face of the earth. I've just uploaded NOD 1 and NOD 6, as well as the basic rules for Pars Fortuna.

There are many other things to download there, and if you have something you would like to upload, by all means do so!

On a side note, just saw this piece of work on DeviantArt ...

Thor by ~Andrew-Robinson on deviantART

Best thing I've seen today. Simple, clean and powerful.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hell - Abaddon Preview 1: Overview

The wind and rain swept circle of Erebus gradually gives way to Abaddon. Unlike the mile high clffs that separate Asphodel and Erebus, the border between Erebus and Abaddon is a more gradual, though slippery, slope.

In Abaddon, the constant rain of Erebus becomes slowly falling flakes of snow. This snow, unfortunately, is not pristine and white, but rather raw sewage in snow form. These putrid flakes fall from the sky and collect between great hills in the form of slush. The slush is rarely more than a foot or two deep, though sometimes it hides deeper pits that are home to otyughs. In places, these slowly moving rivers of sludge are clogged by bulrushes.

Mulling through this sludge are the damned souls of Abaddon. No longer shades, they have been transformed into great, bloated humanoids with faces suggesting swine. These swine-things roam through the muck, rooting in it for bits of more solid waste, which they devour as though it were truffles or some other fabulous viand. The swine-things are slow moving and pay little attention to folk unless they catch the scent of food or drink. They mostly serve as prey for the devil dogs that roam Abaddon.

The hills of Abaddon are not much better. They are slick and slimy in some places and covered with growths of stinkweed, stinking wattle, black horehound, poison hemlock, thorn-apples, devil’s dung, stink grass, skunk cabbage, wild mandrake, chokecherry and poisonous sumac. Amidst the mud and the plants there are great heaps of broken crockery and glass and rusted tools and weapons – all irreparable and long forgotten. Most of these hills are inhabited by the Abaddonites.

Miasma of Entropy
Abaddon is not just disgusting, it is catching. A miasma of entropy covers this circle, affecting everything unfortunate enough to have entered it.

Each living being traveling in Abaddon must pass a saving throw each day or succumb to a disease (see below). This save must be made each day, with a new disease being added to the victim’s repertoire each time they fail.

Objects must likewise save each day or fall into disrepair, as if by magic. Each time armor fails a save, it’s armor value is reduced by one. Armor with a value of +0 simply falls apart. Weapons have their damage dice reduced by one size (i.e. 1d10 to 1d8, 1d8 to 1d6, 1d6 to 1d4, 1d4 to 1d3, 1d3 to 1d2, 1d2 to 1, 1 to 0), with the weapon falling apart when its’ damage potential falls to 0. Glass and stone items become dirty and grimy, cloth items become frayed, then tattered, then useless, metal items become tarnished or rusted, then pitted and then useless, etc.

Characters that dawdle too long in Abaddon may soon be naked, weaponless and wracked with disease.

Races of Abaddon
Abaddon, like most of the other circles of Hell, is not only inhabited by pitchfork-carrying devils and their victims. Three races known to people of the surface world dwell in Abaddon, though these races have been changed in many ways by their habitation in Hell.

Goblins: The goblins of Abaddon are scurrilous little squabs with fat, red faces and gleaming white eyes. They are junk collectors who carry large packs filled with all manner of useful and useless items. Any tool they have that is in working order is bound to carry some manner of curse. Abaddonite goblins have acidic saliva and, once per day, can summon and command 1d12 giant rats.

Orcs: Orcs, being creatures of gluttony, are eminently suitable for Abaddon. The orcs of Abaddon have piggy faces and grotesque, bloated bodies. Their skin is pale and blotchy and their eyes are pink. Abaddonite orcs are immune to disease and poison and have the paralyzing touch of ghouls (save at +3 to negate). When they paralyze or fell a foe, they usually fall to devouring them.

Troglodytes: Like the troglodytes of Nod, the troglodytes of Hell dwell underground, burrowing into the muddy hills and the bedrock beneath them. They have bilious green scales and fan-like crests that run from head to tail. The odor of the troglodytes of Abaddon is so foul that those within 10 feet of them not only suffer the normal penalty but also fall to vomiting until they pass an additional save, which they may attempt once per round.

Lords of Abaddon
Abaddon is ruled by Beelzebuth, who takes the form of a great fly. He sits at the center of all the intrigues of Abaddon and many of the intrigues of Hell as Lucifer’s chief rival and most bitter enemy. Under his dominion are the lords Demoriel and Behemoth (who is usually away from his domain in Abaddon serving as butler in the palace of Lucifer in Dis). The primal demon lord Jubilex also dwells on Abaddon, though he pays no tribute to Beelzebuth. The terrible three-headed hound Cerberus also roams Abaddon.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Deviant Saturday - Manarama Edition

Manarama does lots of great work in a loose, free, fun style. Now, I've been notified by some readers that embedding the images via DeviantArt is a problem in some mobile devices. For that, I apologize. However, I want to be careful about copyright and proper attribution, so I'm going to stick with the embed codes for now.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Cave Brawl - The Rules

Rules of Play
Flip a coin to determine which team starts out with the ball – or simply discuss and come to a decision. The team with the ball is the offense, the team without the ball is the defense.

The defense coach moves first. All of the players begin the game in the “tunnel” leading to the playfield, and thus each one must be moved from their goal cave. The light colored square counts as the first square of their movement.

Play proceeds in turns. The defense coach makes the first move, then his opponent, and so on.

On a coach’s turn, he may move all of his players.

A player can move as many squares as they have movement points and take one action. A player that has been knocked down can stand up and take one action, but cannot move.

All actions are resolved by comparing one of the attacker’s ability scores to one of the defender’s ability scores to derive a modifier. If the attacker’s score is higher, then the modifier is a bonus equal to the difference between the two scores. If the defender’s score is higher, then the modifier is a penalty equal to the difference between the two scores. The attacker rolls 1d20 + the modifier to resolve the action. If the roll is equal to or greater than 10, the action is a success. If not, the action is a failure.

The following actions can be attempted in Cave Brawl:

Block: A block is an attempt to push an adjacent opposing player. Compare the blocker’s BT score to the defender’s BT score to derive the modifier. If successful, the blocker may move the defender one square in any direction. If they have any movement left, they can follow up an end the turn adjacent to the defender. The victim of a successful block suffers 1d6 points of damage. Deduct this from their hit point total. If the roll is a failure, the blocker’s turn is over.

Tackle: A tackle is an attempt to knock an adjacent opposing player over, forcing them to drop the ball. Compare the tackler’s BT score to the defender’s BT or CD score (whichever is higher). If the tackle is a success, the defender is knocked down and loses 2d6 hit points. If they were carrying the ball, it bounces into an adjacent square chosen by the defender. If the tackle is a failure, the tackler is knocked down in the square they occupy and loses 1d6 hit points.

Pass: A pass is an attempt to throw a ball from a passer to a receiver. Compare the passer’s PK score to a difficulty class (DC) based on the range of the attempted pass. For each opposing player adjacent to passer, the d20 roll suffers a -1 penalty.

Short Range (1-5 squares) = DC 4
Medium Range (6-10 squares) = DC 8
Long Range (11-20 squares) = DC 12

If the pass is successful, it is on target and the receiver may attempt to catch it and then move. If the pass is a failure, it lands 1d6 squares away from the receiver, placed by the passer’s opponent.

Catch: This is the attempt by a player to catch a ball that has been passed to them. Compare the receiver’s CD score to the same DC as for the original pass. For each adjacent opposing player, the d20 roll suffers a -1 penalty. If successful, the receiver now holds the ball and can move their allotment of squares. If the catch is failed, the ball is placed one square away from the receiver by the opposing coach.

Kick: Kicking works as passing. The ball is aimed at the tiny hole above the goal tunnel of the opposing team. A successful kick instantly ends the game in victory for the kicking team. The DC of the kick is determined by range, measuring from the kicker to the goal square. For each opposing player adjacent to kicker, the d20 roll suffers a -1 penalty.

Short Range (1-5 squares) = DC 14
Medium Range (6-10 squares) = DC 17
Long Range (11-20 squares) = DC 20

If the kick is a failure, the ball is placed 1d6 squares away from the goal square by the opposing coach.

Pick Up Ball: A ball that is loose on the ground can be picked up by a player. The player must move to the square containing the ball and pick it up. That player’s movement ends in that square.

A team that scores a goal by kicking wins the game automatically.

By moving the ball into the opponent’s goal square, a team scores one point. The first team to score an agreed upon number of points (3 can be considered the default) wins the game.

When a point has been scored, the ball is given to the opposing team and play begins again with each team in their goal tunnel. As always, play begins with the defender.

Keep It Moving
Ungawa demands action! If the offense (i.e. the team with the ball) has not moved the ball for two turns, Ungawa’s priests release one of the following terrors from their animal pits. Roll 1d6 to determine the beast:

Roll Beast POW DMG MV
1 Stirge Swarm 2 1d6 4
2 Smilodon 6 2d6 6
3 Stegosaurus 8 3d6 5
4 Giant Snake 4 1d6 6
5 Mastodon 10 3d6 5
6 Pteranodon 4 1d6 7

Special: The victim of a pteranodon attack must roll 1d6. On a roll of “1”, they are picked up and carried off the field of play, never to return. The victim of a giant snake attack must roll 1d6. On a roll of “1”, they are constricted and unable to move until they make a successful Block attack against the snake. Each round they are constricted, they suffer automatic damage. The victim of a stirge swarm attack must roll 1d6. On a roll of “1”, they lose one point from each of the ability scores (BT, CD and PK).

The released animal either emerges from the left cave or right cave (flip a coin). It heads towards the nearest player on the team that has failed to advance and attacks. After that, the animal moves toward and attempts to attack (if it moves far enough) the nearest player from either team. The animal does not leave the field of play until a point is scored or the animal is killed.

To attack, compare the beast’s Power value to the defender’s BT or CD (whichever is higher) and roll 1d20 as normal. The type of beast determines the number of hit points the player loses on a successful attack. The beast rolls a number of 1d6 equal to its Power value to determine its hit points.

Attempts to block or tackle a beast are made by comparing the attacker’s BT to the beast’s Power value.

League Play
League play can be accomplished by forming a number of teams and then having each team play each other team, recording wins and losses, during the season and allowing the two teams with the best win-loss records play a championship at the end of the season.

Alternatively, you can put the teams in brackets, allowing them to play an initial round of games, the winners playing each other in successive rounds until only two teams remain.

Players that do not survive a game are replaced by new players for the next game. Each player that survives a game can improve one of their ability scores (BT, CD or PK) by +1. No ability score can be improved higher than a score of “8”.
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